Public letter to president Evo Morales from the European Cultural Association Friends of the Coca Leaf
To: Evo Morales Ayma
President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia
Brussels, July 30, 2013
Herewith we send you our regards on behalf of many European citizens who have accompanied your struggle for decades. Thank you for the invitation to the Anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist Peoples Summit that will take place in Cochabamba on July 31st, to which we can not attend because we only received the invitation a week ago. However we would like to suggest a topic for the debate.
The intervention of some European countries to the presidential airplane last July 2nd demonstrates that when it comes to defending their interests, Western countries have no problem in violating international conventions. On the other hand these same countries use international conventions as a tool to dominate especially countries in the South, and immerse them in a state of violence and social injustice.
We refer in particular to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which among other things prohibits the cultivation and consumption of the coca leaf, despite the fact that this plant is a central element of the ancient Andean – Amazonian culture. The only exceptions to this prohibition are reserved for the use of coca leaves in the preparation of medicines (allowed only to the pharmaceutical industry) or a flavoring agent (used almost exclusively by Coca Cola). All other uses of the coca leaf have been banned.
It is this repressive approach that has generated violence, environmental damage, human rights violations and instability throughout Latin America and large parts of the world. In the last three decades Western governments have invested billions of euros for military operations and development projects in the Andean region. However, neither the production of cocaine nor the dependency of coca growers on the illegal market has decreased.
Faced with this reality, many European citizens want to end this situation. We want to repair the historical mistake of having qualified the coca leaf as dangerous. We want to delete one of the most painful legacies of colonialism that criminalized an entire culture only in order to protect the commercial interests of some Western companies.
For decades we have been campaigning for the rehabilitation of the coca leaf and its traditional use. In 2008, we achieved the adoption of a European Parliament resolution calling on the European Commission and the Member States “ to explore ways of cooperating with EU civil society organisations in promoting substances derived from coca leaves for lawful use purely as a means of contributing effectively, by absorbing raw materials, to international action against drug trafficking, ensuring at the same time the safe use of such substances”.
Since this resolution, we have looked for ways to enable the legal import of small quantities of coca leaves and benefitial derivates to Europe. After years of preparation and agreements with the umbrella organizations of coca leaf producers in Bolivia, in 2011 we established the European Cultural Association “Friends of the Coca Leaf”.
This association has 100 members, most of whom have initiated a direct action by asking coca leaf producers in Bolivia to send them packages containing max. 150 grams of coca leaf, always respecting the legal regulations for the trade in coca leaves in Bolivia and obtaining the approval of the competent Bolivian authorities.
Several of our members consume coca leaves to improve their health. They consider the leaf as a healthy alternative to coffee, as it not only stimulates but also nourishes the body. Some members mentioned that after a long history of failure with chemical painkillers, consuming coca leaves was the first and only way they really managed to calm a long lasting stomach ache. Others just want to continue consuming coca leaves as a fundamental part of their cultural life.
Of the 170 packages that were sent to the Friends of the Coca Leaf since May 2012, the major part has reached its European recipients without any problem. Some packages have been confiscated, but there has been no legal action against the association nor its members. In case this would be necessary, we have prepared an extensive legal defense based on at least four International Conventions on Human Rights that guarantee the right to health and freedom of cultural expression.
Making known the benefits of the coca leaf is the best way to show that the coca leaf is not a drug. Rather, it should be accessible to all people, so they can enjoy its nutritional and medicinal values.
However, we regret to say that shipments to our members are currently blocked by decision of the Bolivian Post Office. The ECOBOL refers to the Universal Postal Convention which prohibits sending ‘drugs’, and further indicates that the airline carriers responsible for the transport to Europe, including the Bolivian Airline BOA, have refused to receive packages of coca leaves meant for our members.
Both BOA and ECOBOL are state enterprises that are supposed to serve the interests of the Bolivian people. However, it seems that in these companies there are forces that want to continue the incarceration of the coca leaf.
For these reasons, we ask you to order the collaboration of the entire Bolivian state apparatus in the export of small quantities of coca leaves to the world, invoking Article 384 of the Bolivian Constitution that reassesses and dignifies the coca leaf indicating that ” The state protects the original and ancestral coca leaf as national cultural heritage, renewable natural ressource of Bolivian biodiversity, and as a factor of social cohesion; in its natural state it is not a drug. The revalorisation, production, commercialisation and industrialisation will be regulated by law. ”
The struggle for the rehabilitation of the coca leaf is legitimate because it obeys to cosmic laws which seek to establish a connection between all natural beings. Each eliminated barrier represents a defeat of colonialism, in- and outside Bolivia.
Many congratulations with the organization of the anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist Summit of the Peoples. We hope that many initiatives and campaigns will surge from the Summit, to which we can join our efforts.
Waiting for your response we send you our warm greetings
On behalf of the Friends of the Coca Leaf,